Spacecraft braking simulation marks key step towards real flight test

Sep 19, 2013
Spacecraft braking simulation marks key step towards real flight test
Credit: ESA

Researchers at EU-funded project AEROFAST ('Aerocapture for future space transportation') have successfully simulated a flight manoeuvre in which a space vehicle uses a planet's atmosphere to slow itself down.

The project's simulation under laboratory conditions of the manoeuvre - known as aerocapture - marks an important step towards a real flight demonstration on a planet with atmosphere, such as Earth or Mars. Using the technique would allow space missions to save fuel - and weight - and help expand the ability of humans to explore our solar system.

The project's researchers believe aerocapture technologies could eventually become a core capability for planetary transportation, moving humans and cargo between geostationary Earth orbit and low Earth orbit, and also between the Earth and the Moon or Mars.

Led by France's ASTRIUM, the researchers integrated expertise from a range of scientific disciplines, including areas such as aerodynamics and aerothermal environments.

The team designed and simulated a typical to test the concept. They first established the initial conditions required to perform each phase of a future outer space mission, including the launch, cruise and aerocapture phases.

They then worked on improving to meet these requirements. For example, they tested and improved on algorithms for guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems in a laboratory simulator. They then simulated a complete mission in laboratory conditions to test spacecraft performance.

The tests confirmed that an aerocapture could work. The simulated mission was successful even under worst-case scenarios, while remaining within mass and budgetary constraints. The tests showed that their design of a biconic (aerodynamic) shape as the most appropriate choice for a spacecraft.

The project's prototype (a reduced-scale model) of a spacecraft's thermal protection system based on cork also provided interesting results that should be further considered, the researchers say.

AEROFAST project results already stand as a reference work for upcoming missions, including the European Space Agency's planned Mars exploration missions. The project's research has resulted in 14 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Explore further: NASA identifies three potential asteroids for capture

More information: www.aerofast.eu/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chinese spacecraft completes mission

Jun 25, 2013

China's Shenzhou-10 spacecraft has completed a challenging mission to manually dock with a space module and its three astronauts are expected to return to earth on Wednesday, state media said Tuesday.

NASA prepares for 3-D manufacturing in space

Jun 03, 2013

(Phys.org) —In preparation for a future where parts and tools can be printed on demand in space, NASA and Made in Space Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., have joined to launch equipment for the the first 3-D microgravity printing ...

Laser communications set for Moon mission

Jul 30, 2013

An advanced laser system offering vastly faster data speeds is now ready for linking with spacecraft beyond our planet following a series of crucial ground tests. Later this year, ESA's observatory in Spain ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

3 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anda
not rated yet Sep 19, 2013
Interesting

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.